Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Future is Here

I use my cellphone to talk. I can be found anywhere. I also send and receive text messages. I prefer my email on my laptop (where I save everything), my photos on my computer (where I have a steady slide show as screen saver. I enjoy walking in and seeing pictures out of order and from the recent past). I listen to music on my laptop and desktop (mostly www.kksf.com and www.kfog.com but recently Pandora.com more about that tomorrow)... I am hopelessly old fashioned. I have resisted using my phone as a web browser, video monitor, music-on-the-go machine... I have successfully avoided the Blackberry addiction so many of my generation have fallen to...

I am now bracing myself to avoid the iPhone by Apple. Coming this week to a line, where you will not be able to buy it is the much touted latest marketing miracle by Steven Jobs and the mystic wizards at Infinity Loop...

The SF Chronicle has the story

The iPhone goes on sale Friday at 6 p.m. in each time zone. Besides Apple's retail stores nationwide, the phones will be available through some AT&T stores and through Apple's Web site. AT&T Inc. is the phone's exclusive wireless carrier in the U.S.

Amazon.com Inc. already is taking pre-orders for books related to the iPhone, while the online classified site Craigslist had listings from people willing to wait in line for cash or looking for someone to do so.

People have waited days in line for movie premieres and for video game consoles, but for a phone?

Apple claims the iPhone — which combines the functions of a cell phone, iPod media player and Web-surfing device — will be easier to use than other smart phones because of its unique touch-screen display and intuitive software that allows for easy access to voice mail messages, the Internet and video and music libraries.

Switched has the interview

Scroll down for the rate plans from AT&T

The Mossberg Solution
at WSJ.com has The Test results

He has been testing the iPhone for the past two weeks.
Check out the whole article ...

Apple Inc., whose digital products are hailed for their design and innovation, is jumping into this smart-phone market with the iPhone, which goes on sale in a few days after months of the most frenzied hype and speculation we have ever seen for a single technology product. Even though the phone's minimum price is a hefty $499, people are already lining up outside Apple stores to be among the first to snag one when they go on sale Friday evening.

Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer. Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well, though it sometimes adds steps to common functions.

The Apple phone combines intelligent voice calling, and a full-blown iPod, with a beautiful new interface for music and video playback. It offers the best Web browser we have seen on a smart phone, and robust email software. And it synchronizes easily and well with both Windows and Macintosh computers using Apple's iTunes software.

It has the largest and highest-resolution screen of any smart phone we've seen, and the most internal memory by far. Yet it is one of the thinnest smart phones available and offers impressive battery life, better than its key competitors claim.


It feels solid and comfortable in the hand and the way it displays photos, videos and Web pages on its gorgeous screen makes other smart phones look primitive.

The only add-on software Apple is allowing will be Web-based programs that must be accessed through the on-board Web browser. The company says these can be made to look just like built-in programs, but the few we tried weren't impressive.

Missing features: The iPhone is missing some features common on some competitors. There's no instant messaging, only standard text messaging. While its two-megapixel camera took excellent pictures in our tests, it can't record video. Its otherwise excellent Web browser can't fully utilize some Web sites, because it doesn't yet support Adobe's Flash technology. Although the phone contains a complete iPod, you can't use your songs as ringtones. There aren't any games, nor is there any way to directly access Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Apple says it plans to add features to the phone over time, via free downloads, and hints that some of these holes may be filled.

Expectations for the iPhone have been so high that it can't possibly meet them all. It isn't for the average person who just wants a cheap, small phone for calling and texting. But, despite its network limitations, the iPhone is a whole new experience and a pleasure to use.

The Mossberg examination is much better and more complete than the Forbes report from earlier in June.

Forbes has Five Reasons You May Not Want the iPhone

It's important to remember that Forbes target audience is the business owner or upper manager. Their emphasis is on the total cost-of-ownership and corporate bottomline. Cool and looking sexy don't often find friends at these price levels.
Check out the whole article...
Businesses manage that expense for executives' BlackBerrys, but will consumers happily pay that much? AT&T says existing customers will get the same deal as new customers switching from Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel (nyse: S - news - people )--but subscribers will have to extend their contract for two more years. Will AT&T offer a version for prepaid service subscribers? Many consumers can justify buying a $500 smart phone/iPod hybrid. But AT&T's service terms could break the deal.

David Andelman has some observations on the distribution and pricing model by AT&T.

The big question for AT&T is a simple one--why would you outbid all the competition to acquire rights to sell the device-of-the-decade, calculated to attract as many customers as possible, then promptly do your best to alienate them?

They're not, insists an AT&T spokesman. "Any customer who shows up and cannot purchase an iPhone--and walk away with it that day--can purchase it at the store and have it delivered to the store or to their home for later," says AT&T spokesman Michael Coe. "Any customer can order a phone that day. We do have a direct fulfillment process."

Neither AT&T nor Apple will say just when they might be able to produce that shiny new device, why they aren't shipping enough immediately to satisfy intense demand or, for that matter, why the all-but-unprecedented secrecy regarding the two companies' marketing techniques.

Certainly, that's been Apple's modus operandi in the past--a company totally paranoid about any disclosure of any aspect of any new product.

in the case of the iPhone, the chasm may be even bigger than Apple's other most-sought-after devices. When Parks' researchers moved the price point down to $399 or $299, demand remained virtually unchanged. "It was not until we reached $199--the average cost of a smart phone--that demand began to rise," says Cai.

What worries most of those surveyed? Some 50% cited the high price, 32% feared the battery drain of a multi-use device, 30% worried it would perform none of the functions particularly well, and 29% feared it would be too complex to use. Indeed, many were cautious about putting all their digital eggs in one electronic basket. If the battery dies, they've lost their phone, iPod and PDA in one horrible moment.

Still, there are always folks like Narene Hassan who are still ready to stand in line forever for a Wii.

"The Wii was so successful because it wasn't just targeting a small core audience," Cai observes. "After two days, lines for the PS3 disappeared. After six months, you still can't find a Wii, because it's appealing to a mass audience."

So, the question is, does Apple have a PS3 ... or a Wii?

The lines are formed, reservations made, bribes placed, security hired, promises made and histories forgotten.

I won't be there.

I dislike the whole Apple-we-control-your-world-because-you-are-stupid cocoon. I have avoided the iPod for the same silly iTunes-rules Apple-centric reasoning.

Zappo.com Faces The Future

Forbes has a good article on zappo.com. I have been hearing good things (word-of-mouth )about this site and will soon be making my first purchases. I wear a size 14-15 depending on the makers last. Since I was 13 I have grown accustomed to first asking for the size when i walk in a shoe store. If they have none in my size, it was a short visit and nobody gets frustrated. I am inured to paying extra for the privilege of my "big understanding"... Whenever I find a store with my size, and an acceptable style I usually buy two or three pair in every color.... Fashion is not my friend. Luckily, I am a man and nobody pays much attention except to see that they are shined and in good repair. My poor daughters.... Well, we have been lucky to live where there is a large transvestite community. Not only does it pay to stock the larger sizes, but they have a wide variety of styles and colors....

... seven years ago when his friend Nick Swinmurn left a voice mail asking Hsieh to invest in his online shoe company, Shoesite.com. Hsieh, now CEO of what was renamed Zappos.com, was about to delete the e-mail--"It sounded like the poster child of bad dot-com ideas," he says--when Swinmurn got around to the numbers.

Footwear was a $40 billion market in the U.S. and $2 billion of that, 5%, was done through mail order catalogs. "That addressed the whole issue of whether consumers buy footwear online right away," says Hsieh.

Since then, Hsieh and his team have taken Zappos from an online shoe retailer to a site selling a range of diverse apparel. Customers say one of its greatest appeals is that it guarantees free overnight shipping. That, and the fact that they can return--also for free--any of the items they buy there. That speaks to precisely what Hsieh is trying to do at Zappos. His mantra: Provide great customer service and make the online experience as convenient as possible.

The interview follows:

Obviously customers can't try the shoes on, so when they come to you do they know exactly what they want or are they perusing?

Hsieh: They're coming to us for selection. A relatively small percentage of people know what styles they want. They know we offer over 1,000 brands and over 150,000 styles for men, women and kids. It's a much, much larger selection than is physically possible to have in a single shoe store. Our warehouse is the equivalent of 17 football fields. Customers may know their favorite brand and are looking to see what they have out.

Has Zappos always provided free overnight shipping?

No. We started with ground shipping but knew the faster customers received shoes, the better. We went from ground to three-day shipping after about a year and a half of being in business. Finally, last December, about seven years after we started, we got to the point where we could overnight everything. Our biggest competition isn't online retailers. It's the brick and mortar store experience. We want to come as close to that as possible.

Please read the entire article....

The promise of Internet Marketing and Selling has begun to be fulfilled after the disasterous first few years. The potential is just begun to be realized on a worldwide basis..

I was excited in 1996 when we first began our adventure in the internet. It has been an adventure, an education, and a heck of a lot of fun... We play a supporting role. We were never going to explode into a YouTube or Google or eBay valuation... We have danced with some big names and small... We wound up in boxes in a storage locker (Like so many other brilliant, underfunded and/or flawed ideas) ... I am still a believer in the potential of the internet to create, innovate and change societies...

Its greatest potential is its ability to unlock human ingenuity. It is still possible for some bright people to energize their friends with an idea and together find the funding to create something that has never been done before or has never been done that way... The game is far from over. The day when all that can be invented or needs to be invented has not arrived...

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